Price tag for PC’s mandatory anti-carbon-tax gas-pump stickers hits $30K, internal documents show

By Sabrina Nanji and and Allison Smith December 18, 2019

The cost of the Ford government’s mandatory gas-pump stickers attacking the federal carbon tax has hit $30,000. 

It also appears the government was aware the decals may not be durable for more than a year. 

Back in April, the PCs pegged early estimates for printing 25,000 stickers at $4,954 — but internal documents obtained by Queen’s Park Today show the government ended up ordering 68,500 stickers for a total cost of $10,938 in July, weeks before the mandatory sticker law came into force. 

In addition, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) quoted the price of sorting the stickers, packing them into envelopes and mailing them to the province’s 3,367 gas stations at $18,202.

That brings the pricetag to $29,140. 

Energy Minister Greg Rickford’s office says the cost is worth it because carbon pricing is making life “more unaffordable” for Ontarians. 

“Ontario’s government is standing up for the people by implementing transparency measures that reveal the hidden cost of the federal carbon tax on the price of gasoline,” Rickford’s spokesperson Sydney Stonier said in an email statement to Queen’s Park Today

In March, the Ministry of Energy’s communications team initiated a procurement process to obtain printing services for the stickers, according to the documents. 

Staff reached out to at least six Toronto-based printing companies requesting estimates for a batch of 25,000 stickers that could withstand the outdoors for three to five years, before settling on the firm Astley Gilbert. In its initial outreach email, the ministry requested “weather hardy outdoor” stickers. 

Instead, the ministry wound up with 68,500 decals that “are suitable outside for up to 1 year maximum,” per Astley Gilbert’s final quote.

After a rocky rollout at the end of August, Premier Doug Ford conceded the stickers — which were easily peeled off pumps by vandals — were not up to snuff. The Toronto Star also reported they have the wrong adhesive. 

“It’s like the shoemaker’s daughter not getting shoes. They have to pull me off the ceiling when I hear the stickers are coming off,” Ford, a label magnate, said at the time. 

The province turned down firms that offered up longer lasting stickers, including L3 Digital Print and Copy Center on Bay Street, which recommended a vinyl adhesive that is removable with heat for up to three years and permanent for up to five years. (The company quoted the ministry $18,500 for 25,000 stickers.) 

Each gas retailer received 16 stickers — eight in English and eight in French, based on MGCS’s July quote. (The ratio of French to English stickers was also tweaked throughout the process before the ministry landed on an even split. At one point an estimate was requested for 45,000 English stickers and just 5,000 en français.)

The stickers have been roundly criticized as being misleading, too partisan (they rolled out in the run-up to the federal election which was, in part, fought on carbon pricing), and a breach of Charter rights by a range of groups — including environmental advocates, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has since launched a constitutional challenge arguing the mandatory sticker law constitutes compelled speech. 

While the decals show the federal carbon levy has added 4.4 cents per litre to the price of gasoline, rising to 11 cents per litre by 2022, they fail to mention the associated tax rebates.

Scofflaw stations that repeatedly fail to post the stickers face daily fines of up to $10,000 under the law, but the courts have since set out a lower penalty of $150. In late October, Rickford’s office said no fines had been issued yet.

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-election, the PCs have somewhat eased up on the anti-carbon-tax rhetoric, but have held firm on plans to fight the backstop at the Supreme Court in March.

When the legislature returned from the extended summer recess the week after the election, Rickford said the stickers would stay as “a matter of transparency.” When they were introduced in April, the minister told the house the PC’s policy would also “stick it to the Liberals.” 

The government has earmarked $30 million for its anti-carbon-tax crusade.